Truly, Madly, Deeply
By Rebop


Sure enough,
Next morning came unto me
Silver wings silhouetted against a bright sunrise,
And my angel,
He said unto me,
The time has come for you to fly,
Take my hand,
You’re gonna be my man,
You’re gonna rise,
 And the he took me high over yonder,

And I said fly oh my sweet angel,
Fly unto the sky,
Fly oh my sweet angel,
Forever I will be by your side.

For the next couple of days, Jonothan was like a kid with his shiny birthday bike. This newly discovered aspect of his powers totally absorbed him, and it made him so incredibly happy. I was thrilled for him too, but I also confess to feeling a little neglected for a while. Then I realized what a selfish, stupid asshole I was being, and was relieved that Jono never noticed my pouting. Lord, I can be so childish at times.

 One morning, I found him on the beach, kneeling by a tide pool. I had to laugh; he had a scuba facemask on, head stuck in the water, very cute fanny up in the air. I chuckled over this sight for quite some time, wishing we had a camera. This was such excellent blackmail material.

 Finally, I walked over and gave him a pat on the butt. He sat up and removed the mask, brown eyes smiling sweetly at me. I peered into the pool, it was chock full of sea urchins.

 I plopped down next to him. “So Dr. D., what’s de latest gossip goin’ round in de ocean?”

 He brushed some wet chestnut strands from his face. * Oh, nothing too interesting. Sea urchins are a bit of a bore. All they seem to think about is eating. * He reached into the pool and carefully pulled out a tiny, greenish crab. The little creature stayed delicately balanced on his wide palm. * Now this bloke is far more exciting. He’s got what yer might call ‘tide sense’, which is wonderful. * He chortled. *He’s also eagerly looking for an available, attractive, lady crab for intimate, candle lit dinners and long walks on the beach. * The crab waved its miniscule claws, and Chamber returned it to his home. *Best of luck, mate. *

 Jono scooted next to me, and I wrapped my arms around him. I kissed his cheek, tasting salt water. Jonothan leaned into me and we watched the rise and fall of the waves for a while in contented silence.

 Chamber took my hand. * It’s funny, * he said absently.

 I nuzzled the back of his neck. “What’s funny?”

 *How all this has made me realize what a blind, self-centered idiot I’ve been all me life. *

 This surprised me. As far as the two of us are concerned, I’m the one that’s self-centered. “You ain’t dat way, baby.”

 He shook his head. *Yeah, Rem, I am. I’ve been wrapped up so much in me own problems, me own little life. And it’s really so small, so tiny. I never paid that much attention to what else was going on. If it didn’t immediately concern me, I didn’t give a fuck. * He sighed. * It’s like walking round with a bag over yer head. And funnily enough, it doesn’t take special telepathy to see what an amazing, complicated place the world really is. Yeah, there’s shit out there, awful things, but yer can’t use that as an excuse to ignore all the beauty. I had no idea. * He picked up a hand full of sand and let it trickle through his fingers.

 I hugged him tight, smooched his ear. “Love y’, Boo.” I knew he was smiling, even though I couldn’t see his face. And since I can never resist teasing, I added, “Y’ startin’ to get kinda a spiritual bead on t’ings. Which is good. Although y’ be skirtin’ mighty close to Shirley McClaine territory. Pretty soon y’ gonna be chantin’ and dancin’naked in de moonlight.”

 He turned to look at me, eyes all crinkled. *Aw, no worries, Rem. I’ve got you. Yer me handy Bullshit-O-Meter. If I start to worry about me aura or think about living in a yurt, I know you’ll smack me right upside the head. *

 “Count on it. Not livin’ in no damn yurt, me. However, now dat I t’ink about it, de dancin’ naked in de moonlight wouldn’t be so bad.”

 I got a Starsmore eye roll. * Oh, well then. Here’s a surprise. *

 I laughed. “ And jus’ what are y’ insinuating, Jonothan?”

 He poked me in the ribs. * You’d use just about any excuse to go starkers, Remy me love. ‘Hey, cher, it’s Arbor Day!’ Or the opening of the Kentucky Derby. Sale at J.C. Penny’s. *

 I pretended outrage, even though it was sort of true. I had to grab him and punish him for insubordination, as well as that awful Cajun accent. Nothing more fun than blowing a big raspberry on Jono’s stomach, either. I just can’t let him get away with that kind of crap.

Later that afternoon we ended up together in the hammock, which happens a lot. Jonothan was reading a battered copy of a book he had found in the house; “Sharks and Rays: Denizens of the Deep”. I was slogging my way through Tolstoy without much luck. Should have stuck to Tony Hillerman. I found myself reading the same damn paragraph over and over. I finally gave up and glanced at Chamber. What I saw made me chuckle. He was sound asleep, his book somehow still propped upright in his hands. I carefully pried it out of his fingers, drew him to me. He didn’t wake up, but instinctively snuggled even closer.

 And for some reason, that little innocent action just devastated me; filled me with emotion. He trusted me so much. I looked at him, long legs twined around mine. He had one flip-flop on, the other was mysteriously missing. His left hand was resting on my stomach. Curled slightly, I could see the ugly, ragged scars on his wrist. I touched his chest, traced where he had once showed me where the terrible wound was. I moved my fingers up to his face; caressed the mask that gave an illusion of wholeness. I grazed the bump on his nose, brushed an eyebrow, and finally gave his pale forehead a soft kiss.

 I started to think about the talk we had earlier that morning. Jono seemed to have gained a special awareness of the world; a new connection. I envied him a bit; but I suddenly realized I had a new and very deep connection of my own. And it was to the deceptively fragile looking boy lying next to me.

 I have never really given much thought the future. My philosophy has been, ‘Live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse.’ I never figured I’d be lucky enough to find someone to share my life with, grow old with. I honestly did try with Rogue, but deep in my bones I knew we were both much too scarred and fucked up.

 And scarred and fucked up certainly describes Jono and me too. We’re both ripe for years and years of therapy. But somehow, the both of us together seem so strong. Rogue seemed to drain my soul, just as her powers robbed people of their life force and memories. Jonothan, on the other hand, only makes me feel complete. And I want to spend every moment of allotted breathing time I have on earth with him. Which is frighteningly close to: “’Til death do us part.” I said those words to Belle once and my entire marriage lasted two hours and forty-three minutes. Didn’t even get to cut the cake.

 I looked at Jono again, sleeping so peacefully. I knew I could say those words once more. I actually toyed with the idea of waking him up and making some sort of proposal. Then I thought about how weird that would sound. Did I want to put that kind of pressure on him? I knew that he loved me, but he was also only nineteen: an age where you don’t exactly think about settling down.

 I rested my head near his, closed my eyes. I decided that we needed to talk about our plans together, what our future would be once we left the island. And I promised myself that I would do it that very evening.

 However, my life has a way of not going according to schedule. I was indeed going to find out just how deeply Jonothan loved me, and how committed he was. But it wasn’t going to be because of any little talk. No, instead I was going to take us both on a ride to Hell and back.

The whole thing started innocently enough. We were getting ready for bed, and Jono was in an extremely good mood, having whupped my ass at backgammon. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, thinking about ‘The Big Talk’. I decided the best way was to make love first, getting us both in a cozy, intimate place.

 Meanwhile, Chamber was in the bedroom, busily trying to irritate me, ‘singing’ very loudly; * We are the champions, my friends/ and we’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end/ We are the champions, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!  *  I have always hated that damn song, and had to be careful not to choke on the toothpaste ‘cuz I was laughing so hard. What an absolute little shit he was being.

 I snuck a look out the bathroom door. Jono unwisely had his back to me. He stripped off his t-shirt and I grinned. I then grabbed a towel and waited, my timing had to be perfect.

 I was in luck. He started to pull off his shorts and boxers. As he bent over, I aimed for that very white, very vulnerable ass. I gave the towel a sharp snap; it hit him with a satisfying crack. Jono jumped at least a foot, holding the offended cheek. I would have popped him again; but by now I was laughing so hard I couldn’t do it. Jono almost fell on the floor, pants around his ankles. He managed to stay upright, however, and quickly got his shorts back on.

  You rotten fucker! * Jono laughed, and tried to wrest the towel away from me. * What a sore loser! *

 “Am not! Jus’ getting’ y’ for bein’ such an appalling snot, cher.” I managed to pop him in the leg again, then grabbed him and tossed him on the bed. I easily pinned him, holding both wrists with one hand above his head.

 Dark eyes stared up at me, laughing and defiant. “I am not a snot! Yer just being all pissy because the Great Gambit got his arse handed to him. Nah, nah! *

 “Y gonna regret dat, Jonothan.” I touched his nose with mine. “ I might have to take drastic measures, me.”

 * Oh, do yer worst. Yer still a sore loser. * Jono struggled hard, but it wasn’t difficult to hold on.

 “You asked for it, baby!’ And I proceeded to tickle him without mercy.  I would give him an ‘A’ for effort too, he really fought me on this. He almost wriggled away a few times; I’m surprised we didn’t wreck the bed. It was a very fierce battle. But poor Jono is so hellishly ticklish; I finally had him pretty helpless and weak with laughter.

 I was straddling his stomach. “ Gonna give up, cher?”

 *AHHH!!!! Okay! I give! I give! AHHHH!!!! Stop! STOP!!!! PLEASE!!! *

 I halted my torture. “Say it, den.”

 *Awright, yer got me, mate. * Jono’s voice was wobbly. “Yer not a sore loser at all. What a wonderful sport yer are! An example for us all. *

 I pinched his nose. “ Now, I wan’ y’ to admit what a naughty brat y’ are.”

 A snort. * Is that all? ‘Course I’m a miserable brat. I’m awful. Yer just figure that out? *

 I tried not to laugh. “Y’ call dis contrite? Better change de ‘tude, Miseu Starsmore, or Gambit gonna have to start de treatment all over again. I got all night.”

 Jono’s eyes got rather huge. * Aw Jesus, no! Sorry, sorry, sorry! I am without a doubt, the most completely awful, rotten little shit on the face of the earth. * And he gave me such a big, Bambi doe eyed look, I completely cracked up. Then I kissed him. “Dat’s much better. Now, y’ give me a back rub, I’ll definitely forgive y’.” I got off his stomach and let him sit up. His wild hair was even wilder; it looked like he had stuck a finger in an electric socket.

 *A back rub, eh? To hear is to obey, O Master. * Jono did a little salaam. * With or without massage oil? *

 “With.” I stripped off my tank top, stretched out on the bed. I LOVE Jonothan’s back rubs; they are pure heaven. Adding massage oil to the mix made it even better. I also figured it would lead to something even more pleasurable. I smiled into the sheets.

 Jono got the massage oil from the nightstand; he poured a small amount on my back. He sat on my ass and started to work, humming as he did. I recognized the tune. It was “We are the Champions.” The little turd.

 I forgot all about it after a minute, though. His big hands were so warm and strong; I was soon purring like an old tomcat. My muscles relaxed and unknotted; I smelled sandalwood. I gave a large, contented sigh.

 “Oooh, y’ so good at dis, cher. Gonna have to hire y’ out as a masseur. We’d make a mint.”

 *Not on yer life. I only work for beautiful Cajuns. Ain’t about to give fat businessmen with hairy backs this kind of treatment. * He rubbed a spot near my left shoulder blade. * ‘Ey, Rem? Where’d yer get this scar? *

 I had to think for a minute, as I have quite a few. “Kind of a jagged, s-shape?”

 *Yeah. *

 “Samurai sword. Big melee with a bunch of ninjas in Kyoto. Hurt like hell.”

 *Ninjas? Really? Yer not having me on? * Jono tried not to sound impressed, but I could hear the teenager in his ‘voice’. I grinned wide. “ Nope. Not lyin’, me.”

 His rough, marvelous fingers traveled further down my spine. I relaxed even more, melting into the sheets. I had to fight to stay awake, remembering the other plans I had for the evening.

 *How about the scars down here, love? * Jonothan was at the center of my back. *They’re very deep. *

 And just why this happened, I honest to God don’t know. I suddenly forgot every self- imposed rule, every secret vow. I found myself saying, “A pimp gave me those.”

 t was truly one of those moments where time seemed to stand still. Jono’s hands froze, and my heart seemed to cease beating. Way, way in the back of my mind, I cold hear a voice just screaming, “ Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” in a frantic chant. Every muscle in my body went rigid and I had to fight to breathe.

 Jono slid off my back and knelt beside me. He pushed some hair from my face, touched my cheek. *Remy…did yer say…a pimp? *

 I stared at a pillow, counting the threads. And I started to talk, although it was like the voice was coming from someplace else, channeled, disembodied. I felt like a broken tape recorder with miles and miles of tape spewing out on the floor.

 “Happened when I was maybe ‘bout nine. I was on de streets, pickin’ pockets. I had gotten pretty good at it, was eatin’ regular. And I had dis dog. He was de ugliest t’ing you ever did see. I found him chained up in dis junk pile, some shit had left him to starve and die. It took me hours to get close to him; he bit me twice. But I managed to get him loose, gave him somet’ing to eat. And for some reason, he started following me around. We did about everyt’ing together, slept in de same bed. Ate de same food. Don’t know who had more fleas. I loved bein’ with him. My empathy power started in very early, scared the crap out of me. I hated people, but dat dog just felt so good. He was de first t’ing dat ever loved me, and I loved him back, although I really didn’t have a name for it then. I just knew I was easier around him. I named him Bone, ‘cuz he was skinny as one.”

 “Anyways, dere was dis pimp after me. He was a real motherfucker, name of Bulldog. He ran a stable of boys, liked ‘em young. He really wanted to add my ass to it. I tried to stay out of dat sick bastard’s way, he was just bad news. I was like a little wild t’ing den, very hard to catch. So Bulldog, he laid himself some plans. He had a couple of his whores follow me, study my movements. Must have taken ‘em months, I was very careful. But I wasn’t careful enough.”

 “Dey found one of my hide-outs in an old warehouse. And he and a couple of his bigger boys were waiting for me when I came home one night.”

 My mouth had gone dry by now; it was hard to swallow. Jono was statue still beside me. And that old voice in my head was howling and crying. “ YOU’RE TELLING!” it said, “YOU NEVER, EVER TELL! But it seemed impossible to stop. The poison inside me was going to come out, whether I wanted it to or not.

 “Dey ambushed me, and I fought dem wit’ everyt’ing I had. Did some damage, but it wasn’t enough. First t’ing Bulldog had dem do was strip me. Dey laid me down on de concrete and he beat me wit’ his belt. Dat’s where all dose scars came from. But I didn’t cry or nothin’, didn’t make one sound. And dat made him real mad. He had de boys keep holding me down, and he raped me.  I still didn’t say nothin’, no beggin’, although I wanted to die. He told de boys to do me too, dey had demselves a fine old time, callin’ me mutie trash. I passed out a couple of times, but I still stayed quiet. Finally, Bulldog figured out a way to get me. He grabbed Bone by de scruff of de neck, took out his switchblade. And I did beg him to let my dog go. Told him I would do anything, begged like I never begged before. And Bulldog had a big laugh over this, and he killed Bone anyway. Stuck a switchblade in his stomach, insides went on de floor. Took him awhile to die, too. And I felt all his pain and fear as he died, and knew how much he loved me. Dat’s why I don’t use empathy on animals anymore. Reminds me too much of Bone.”

 “Bulldog hauled my ass to his crib, locked me in a closet. He raped me a few more times. But I got lucky. Bulldog was a major cokehead, and he got really junked up one night. He forgot to lock de closet, and I got out through a skylight, ‘cuz I could climb like a monkey. I was a real mess, but I did have one sort of friend on de streets. Champagne was a transvestite whore, lots older than me. I saved her from a bad john once. Her pimp was fairly decent, and better yet, he hated Bulldog. I hid at Champagne’s place until I healed up. I was plannin’ on getting out of town altogether when I got de good news. Bulldog got himself killed in some bar fight. And y’ wanna hear irony? He got gutted liked a fish.”

 And then the tape ran out, I was done. I felt ice cold, even though it was at least seventy-five degrees. I managed to turn my head, and finally look up at Jono. I didn’t think it was possible, but he had somehow gotten paler. And those big angel eyes were filled with such shock and horror.

 I couldn’t bear it; it suddenly felt like ants were crawling under my skin. I bolted from the bed, started to dig through the dresser for some clothes. I had to get the hell out of there.

 *Remy-what are yer doing? * Jono sounded dazed and shaky.

 “Gotta go.” I slipped on a t-shirt.

 *WHAT?! * His mental shout rang in my head. He scrambled off the bed; shut the dresser drawer before I could pull on some jeans. *Remy, yer can’t go! Not after what yer just told me. *

 I was finding it hard to breathe- the walls were closing in. “I can do what I damn well please.”

 Jono spoke slowly and patiently. *Remy, just listen. We need to talk, yer need to calm down. Yer so upset right now, love. *

 “Non.” The ants were starting to drive me crazy. “Jus’ stay outta my way, Jonothan.”

 *No, I’m not. I’m not gonna let yer go. Running away from this won’t help, sweetheart. Yer told me all this for a reason, yer must have wanted me to know! Please let me help yer. Why do yer feel yer have to leave? *

 I couldn’t think of any good reason at all except a feeling of terrible panic. “I can’t talk right now! I’m done talking! Now I HAVE to GO!”

 Chamber suddenly grabbed the keys from the dresser. *Yer stayin’ right here, mate! *

 I became furious. “ I can wipe de floor with y’ Jono, y’ know dat! So give me de damn keys!”

 Jono’s temper flared as well. *Like fucking hell I will! *

 I just couldn’t take it anymore. I reached out and seized his slender wrist; tried to wrench the keys from his grip. Physically, Jono is no match for me, but he put up a terrific fight, it was like wrestling a wildcat. And I didn’t want to hurt him, but I did anyway. I finally go hold of the keys and swung my arm wide. The back of my hand cracked across his face; I heard something snap. It knocked him to his knees.

I can’t tell you how horrified I was at the sight of my lover in pain, all because of me. I couldn’t move, sick with self- hatred. Jono was stunned, blackish, oily blood poured down his bandages from his nose. I gripped the keys so tightly they cut into my palm.

 “Jono-merde, I am so sorry. Forgive me mon amour…” And I am incredibly ashamed to say that I didn’t help him. The hysteria had too hard a hold on me. I backed out the door, just wanting to go, go, go, as far away as possible.

 But I had forgotten something very important. Chamber is no match for me in physical strength or agility. But as far as mutant powers go, I am so outclassed. I got to the hall when Jono’s telepathic voice filled my head.

 *Stop. * And this wasn’t a plea; it was a command. His ‘voice’ cut through what I thought were impenetrable mental shields like a hot knife through butter. He halted me dead in my tracks. I panicked, I absolutely hate losing control. But there was nothing I could do about it.

 * Come back in here and sit down. * I fought this suggestion as hard as I could, but it was like a mosquito taking on a Panzer tank. My body turned itself around, and I walked back into the bedroom; sat on the bed. I was shaking so hard now that my teeth chattered.

 Jono got drunkenly to his feet and staggered over to me. He knelt in front of me, hands on my knees. It was torture to look at his poor face; white as paper, all that dark blood splattered everywhere. I just wanted to die.

 He stroked my leg. *Remy, I didn’t want to do that, please forgive me. But I had to stop yer somehow. * He took the keys from my now limp hand. * Aw shit, yer cut yerself. I’ll go get something. * I couldn’t believe it. I had just broken his nose; and he was all worried about me. He went into the bathroom and returned with the first aid kit, a damp towel to his face. The blood stained it a weird color. He sat down beside me. *Now then, let’s see yer hand, love. *

 I finally found my voice; it came out in a strangled whisper. “Cher, I’m so sorry. Didn’t mean to hurt y’, run away. I’m such a shit.”

 *Remy, it was an accident; don’t worry about it. * He took the towel away from his face; I was hugely relieved to see that the bleeding had stopped. *It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. Certainly won’t affect me considerable beauty. Now let’s get yer hand fixed up. *

 Numbly I extended it, sort of fascinated with just how badly it was shaking. Chamber held it firmly in his warm fingers, and pulled a pad from the kit to wipe the blood with. *So, why did yer want to leave, Rem? * he asked in a calm, casual tone.

 I didn’t even feel the iodine he put on my palm. “I was ashamed.”

 Jonothan got out some gauze, and he began to wrap my hand. *Why would yer feel ashamed, love? Yer did nothing bad, nothing wrong. It was that evil, fucking monstrous bastard that hurt yer that bears the entire blame. * He sighed raggedly. * I had no idea when yer lived on the streets that yer were so little. Dunno why it didn’t occur to me, how stupid. How long were yer there before Jean-Luc found yer? *

 “Not sure how old I am, cher. Poppa took me in when I was maybe ten. I was on de streets for at least four years.”

 *Jesus. * Chamber murmured. He finished bandaging my hand, then cupped it his carefully. *I’ve always been afraid to ask this, but now I’m gonner. Remy, what happened to yer parents? *

 “Don’t know. Don’t remember anyone at all. Dat’s de truth, Jono. Don’t know if I was abandoned, lost…Everyt’ing before de age of six is one big blank.” Just talking about this made me even colder. And it was indeed the truth, I have no idea how I ended up all alone on the N’awlins sidewalks. I began to shiver violently; Jono quickly drew the comforter around my shoulders.

 *Remy, I can’t begin to say how sorry I am about what yer went through. Everything I can think of sounds lame. *

 God help me, at this point I began to rock back and forth. It shamed me to no end, but I couldn’t stop it. I was losing all control. “Don’t want y’ pity, Jono.”

 *I am the last fucking person who gonner sit around and pity yer! * His sharp tone made me look up at him. And there was no pity at all in his eyes, just love and terrible worry. I took a lot of comfort from that.

 *That time in the shower, when yer got all freaked. Did that have something to do with all this?*

 I sighed. It all was going to come out. “ Yeah. Being held from behind really spooks me sometimes.”

 *Thought there was something bloody weird going on. * Chamber said, almost to himself. Then he tentatively touched my shoulder. *Remy…can I hold yer? *

 “NO!” I blurted. “Don’t want y’ touching me right now.” I was close to out and out hysterics. “ I’m dirty, okay?”

 *No, yer not. Yer did nothing wrong, love. *

 I got very angry. “Y’ don’t understand Jono, y’ don’t know one goddamn t’ing about it! Bulldog wasn’t my ‘first’. I sold myself willingly. I didn’t do it a lot, only when I was starving. Let men paw me like I was a piece of meat. Used de empathy on dem too, so dey would like me, wouldn’t hurt me. I was a little whore.”

 I picked up Jonothan’s shock; there was such pain on his face. But he kept his tone soft. * Yer weren’t anything of the kind, darling. Yer were a little boy, just trying to survive. Those awful creeps took advantage of a kid’s desperation. They all should be shot. It wasn’t yer fuckin’ empathy. I can’t believe no one tried to help yer. *

 Acid tinged my voice. “Well, welcome to de real world, Mr. Starsmore! No one really gave a shit about me until Jean-Luc came along. Dey called me Le Diable Blanc on de streets, like I was some demon, less than human. Social workers and de holy-holies didn’t come near me, too much trouble. I was a mutie, something to be fucked, hit or pissed on, not helped.”

 Jonothan gingerly touched my back, rubbed a warm circle. I was rocking very hard now, and I felt so lost. I had finally done it; confessed my worst, deepest secret. And the person I loved most in the world knew my terrible shame.

 All of a sudden, Jono pulled me in his arms. I got stiff as a board. “Thought I told y’ to that I didn’t want to be touched.” But I couldn’t pull away for some reason.

 He hugged me even tighter. *Well, I’ve figured something out about yer, Remy. What yer say and what yer actually want are two different things. *

 And he was oh so very right. I found myself clutching on to him like I was drowning. I grabbed his arms so hard that I discovered later I had raised big bruises. But he didn’t flinch, he just rocked me, stroked my hair. My face ended up resting on his shoulder; I could smell his skin, the baby lotion. And somehow this undid me; tears began to leak out. I fought them with every ounce of will I had.

 *It’s really okay to cry, Rem. * Jonothan whispered.

 “I can’t. Y’ don’t understand.” My throat was full of broken glass. “ If I cry about it, it means dat dey won, dat dey hurt me.”

 He pulled back, looking me full in the face. *Remy, they did hurt yer. They hurt yer terribly. And yer don’t lose by crying, love. Yer been carrying this inside yer for far too long. Let it out, Remy, please.”

 And despite my struggle against it, I let go. And it hurt, oh God, how it hurt. It was incredibly painful, crying like that. I was afraid my guts were going to come out, just like Bone. And through it all Jono held on, so strong. If he hadn’t been there, I really think I would have just died.

I have no idea how long I cried. Seemed like days. And there was no feeling of wonderful release or catharsis; what stopped me finally was the overwhelming urge to puke. Jono dragged my ass into the bathroom yet again. He got a cool washcloth and cleaned up all the tears, sweat and snot. And like a sick and exhausted child, he tucked me back into bed. I curled around him, holding his hand. He rubbed my back, soothed me into a heavy, mercilessly dreamless sleep.

 Things weren’t much better after that. For the next few days I was I was like a shambling zombie from a bad B movie, just numb. All I wanted was to lie in bed, cocooned in a blanket. That’s about as far as my world extended.

 Jonothan was constantly at my side, although I barely acknowledged him. He must have been frightened by my behavior, but he stayed calm and held it together. All I felt from him empathy-wise was love and concern. He got me to drink water, coaxed me into eating a little, mostly jelly sandwiches, I think. I really wasn’t aware of too much. And he was there in the aftermath of some really horrendous, sweaty nightmares. He rocked me endlessly, soothed me through some long crying jags. Jesus, I was a mess.

 I finally was jolted out of this stupor by getting good and mad. I was lying like the Undead, head under a pillow, when Chamber patted my shoulder.

 *Remy? Why don’t yer get up for a bit, take a bath? I’d like to change the sheets. *

 I grunted in reply. “ Non. Don’ wan’ no damn bath. Just leave me ‘lone Jono, y’ actin’ like my maman. Quit buggin’ me.”

 I heard an exasperated mental sigh. *All right then, be that way. But I should point out to yer Rem that yer starting to smell. And the bloody sheets are getting more than a bit ripe. *

 This instantly got my attention. If there’s one thing I’m highly sensitive about, it’s personal hygiene. I sat up, totally furious. Jono, in turn, regarded me with Buddha-like calm, arms folded.

 “I don’t smell! How fucking dare you, y’ little shit!”

 Jono cocked an eyebrow. * God’s truth, mate. Yer do. Yer definitely no bed of petunias. So please go take a bath. Or do I have to drag yer in there meself? *

 I staggered out of bed, spluttering and glaring. I suddenly detected a slight twinkle in his brown eyes. I realized I had just been played, but good. He had gotten my ass out of bed. This made me even madder.

 Oh, fuck you, Starsmore!” I stormed into the bathroom and loudly slammed the door.

 * I love yer too, Remy. * Chamber replied, a slight chuckle in his ‘voice’.

 I just plain stewed for a few seconds, mad at Jono, mad at being manipulated, mad at the whole fucking, shitty world. Then I flushed with embarrassment when I gave myself an experimental sniff. I was definitely no bed of petunias.

 I forgot my anger altogether when I caught my reflection in the mirror. I gasped, I was the definition of Death Warmed Over. My skin was drained of color; there were purple circles under my eyes. My hair hung limp and greasy; I had a raspy beard. And the expression in my eyes was so lost and haunted. And so very familiar.

 I was then hit with a strong memory, my nine-year-old self, standing in Champagne’s tiny bathroom. I was naked in front of her mirror, staring at the bruises and cuts that Bulldog had marked me with. And I just hated myself, what I was. An ugly, whoring, filthy mutant. Not fit to live. Not fit for anything.

 I didn’t hear the light knock on the bathroom door, or Jonothan’s entrance. I was in a kind of trance in front of that mirror.

 *Rem, I brought yer some clean towels…Remy? Are yer okay? * I didn’t really register his presence, so when he touched my shoulder I nearly jumped out of my skin. I whirled around and gave him a hard shove.

 “DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!” Jono almost fell to the floor, I found myself backing into a corner. I tried to make myself as small as possible crouching into a ball. The terrible panic was back, and I squeezed my eyes tight, trying to control it.

 Jono’s deep, croaky ‘voice’ filled my head, soft and cautious. *Rem, listen to me. I’m so sorry I startled yer like that. I should have known better. Please forgive me. *

 I began to rock, hating it, hating me. “Stop fucking apologizing Jono. I’m de one dat’s acting crazy. I’m de one dat should be sorry for putting y’ through all dis shit. I don’t know how y’ can stand me.” The weakness and self- pity in my voice started a fresh wave of loathing; I banged the back of my head hard against the wall to make myself stop rocking. It hurt, but I still couldn’t quit.

 Jono crawled over to me. *Could yer tell me what started all this? Yer were staring at yer reflection when I came in. *

 I tried not to look at him, but focused on the tile pattern. “ Remembered somet’ing. Somet’ing bad. Of course. I’m so tired of confessing all de time Jono, talking about dis garbage! Aren’t you sick of it too?”

 *No, love, all I want to do is help yer. *

 I got all angry again. “Jonothan, dere really ain’t much y’ can do! Y’ can’t erase de damn past!”

 There was a long pause. * Actually, Remy I can. *

 This shocked me. So much that I stopped rocking. I stared hard at him. “What?”

 Jono looked at me steadily. * I can enter yer mind, Rem, and take away all those horrible memories, make yer forget. Telepaths can do that. * He took my hand. * I can also find memories that are lost, Rem. I could help yer remember yer parents, what happened to yer, if yer wanted. *

 And as soon as he said that, I knew he could do it. And it was so incredibly tempting, to lose all those nightmares forever. And the offer to finally discover what was behind that big blank wall in my head, well, that was so wonderful and terrifying at the same time, I couldn’t speak for a long while.

 “Mais, Jono-I don’t know what to say…what y’ offering is so amazing. And God, how I would love to not have to ever t’ink about all dat shit again.” I squeezed that strong hand of his, rubbed the knuckles. “But I believe I’ll have to pass, cher. Those t’ings dat happened, dey made me what I am, for better or worse. Should just finally try to deal with it. But I might take y’ up on findin’ out where I came from…someday. I ain’t ready for it yet, and I’m scared dat dere’s a really good reason just why I don’t remember. I also won’t deny dat part of me wants to finally know.”

 Jonothan brushed his fingers across my cheek. * I thought that’s what I thought you would say…whenever yer ready, Rem, the offer will always be open. * He stood up, suddenly, extending his hands. *Now, would yer do us a favor? Stand up for a bit? *

 I let him pull me to my feet, a little puzzled. He surprised me by taking me by the shoulders and turning me to face the mirror. * Yer did this once for me, now I’ll do it for yer. What did yer see in the mirror, then Remy, before I walked in? *

 This was about the last thing I wanted to do, but I made myself. I had just made a big statement about trying to cope with everything. “ What I saw was myself, after Bulldog…raped me. I was remembering how bad I felt…how worthless, how dirty…” Every word pained me, but I kept on. “ I felt like I was nothing, and so alone cher, so alone.”

 Jonothan touched a finger to my reflection. * My turn. This is what I see: a survivor. A very strong, tough person who has gone through some horrible, evil shit, and somehow managed to deal with it. And a person that didn’t turn mean or cruel or cold like most people would have. * He slipped an arm around my waist. * Another thing I see is that this person isn’t alone any more.*

 I found myself shaking, and I couldn’t stop staring into the mirror. Jono’s words hit home, they went deep. But what really got me was not my reflected image, but my lover’s. I had been so busy drowning in my own misery pool; I hadn’t really looked at Jono much. And if I resembled Death, Jono was like Total Hell. Both eyes were black, and there was an angry bruise across his face. What wasn’t bruised was ghastly pale; he must have been completely exhausted. But there was none of that in his dark eyes. They were filled with the fiercest love, something completely, utterly unbreakable. And that was all for me. Me. My Warrior Goth Boy Angel.

 I found myself turning in a daze and wrapping my arms around his willowy body, trying very hard not to cry. I wasn’t really thinking though, and I pressed his face a little into my chest. Jonothan immediately let out a yelp. *OW! SHIT! * He pulled away with a very pained expression.

 “Mon Dieu, cher, I’m sorry-dat must have hurt.” Yeah, what an immensely stupid thing to say.

 Jonothan understandably looked at me like I was an idiot. *’Course it fucking hurts! * He softened though, when he saw how stricken I was. *Oh Rem, it’s all right. Don’t get all upset. Broken nose is nothing to me, anyway. I’ve obviously experienced far worse. * He actually chuckled.

 For a second, I was flabbergasted that he would make such a joke, and then I actually started to laugh. Jonothan laughed with me, and took me in his arms. I hugged him back, a lot more careful of his nose this time.

 *So, Petunia-are yer gonna take that bath now? *

 I found myself smiling a little. “Jono, y’ turning into a goddamn nag, y’ know dat?”

 I was rewarded with an arched brow. *Well, if yer didn’t need so much supervision, I wouldn’t have to be, now would I? * He very gently caressed my cheek, which always feels like a kiss when he does it. *So, I’ll leave yer to it, then. Holler if yer need anything. * He started to go.

 I am amazed at how utterly insecure I can get. Jono’s leaving really bothered me; I needed him there, and I suddenly craved some reassurance. I worry that someday Jono will think of me as this emotional bottomless pit; no matter how much love and comfort I get, I always seem to need more. My only excuse here is that I had been beyond stressed, and wasn’t thinking too clearly. At all.

 “Jonothan, please stay. Like some company, me.” I gave him the ol’ Remy charming smile, trying to be irresistible.

 It worked. * ‘Course, love, if yer want me to. * Jonothan answered good-naturedly. * I’ll fill the tub then, while yer get undressed. *

 He busied himself with the bath while I stripped. Even though he wasn’t looking at me, I felt uncomfortable, and I hated it. This was my lover, and there was no reason to feel strange or awkward. He loved me, wouldn’t ever hurt me. But deep down in my heart there was also this awful, irrational fear that Jono might not want tainted goods.

 I clambered it the tub, trying not to shiver. The water was divine; it helped my very tense muscles relax some. Jonothan knelt down next to the tub, and he surprised me by pouring a cup of water over my head.

 “Might have given me a little warning, Starsmore.” I said, spitting out some water.

 Jonothan snickered. * Wouldn’t have been much fun that way. * He grabbed a bottle of shampoo. *Now keep yer eyes closed, I don’t want to hear any whining about soap. * Before I could protest; Jono poured some shampoo on my head, and started to work up a lather. I have to say it felt so good, Jono’s clever fingers rubbing and messaging my scalp. I found myself leaning into his touch like an old cat. Some of that fear began to leave.

 *That feel nice then, sweetheart? * Jono murmured.

 “Ummm….” Was all I could manage.

 Jonothan finally finished, carefully rinsing me off. I smiled a slow smile at him; trying to be as seductive as possible. “T’anks, cher, Y’ got talented fingers.”

 *Yer welcome, love. *  I took one of his hands and kissed it; his eyes widened when I guided his hand down my chest. “Very talented…”  I continued, moving his hand across my stomach to my cock.

 Jonothan didn’t respond at all for a few seconds and there was suddenly tension in the air. Then he sighed. * Remy, I’m sorry-no.* He pulled his hand away.

 I went from zero to asshole in about a half second, the rejection cut so deep. “ I FUCKING KNEW IT! Y’ didn’t mean what y’ said at all, did y’? Y’ don’t want me; y’ can’t stand to touch me, can y’?! CAN Y’?!” I splashed some water in his face. “Get out of here then, and leave me the hell alone!”

 Jono looked tremendously wounded, then he got very, very angry. He startled me by suddenly grabbing my face. *Now listen to me, Remy LeBeau! Don’t treat me like that! And don’t yer ever, EVER, fucking doubt that I don’t love yer! Or want yer! What I just said to you not ten minutes ago, do yer think that was all a lie? Yer the bloody empath here, how can yer not know how I feel about yer? But one thing I WON’T do is play this head game with yer!*

 He was so mad that all my anger left. “What head game?”

 *Don’t play daft, yer know perfectly well what I’m talking about! And I have to say, it is one thing that has always bothered the crap out of me since we first got together. I get this feeling sometimes that yer have sex with me to make sure I’ll stay with yer, not because yer really want to. * He furiously wiped some water from his face.

 This hit so close to home it really frightened me. “ So-y’ callin’ me a whore, is dat it, Jono?” My voice was shaking.

 *NO! * He banged the side of the tub with his fist, so hard I was afraid he might have broken it. * I think I understand why yer do it, now more than ever. Yer scared, that’s all. But, Rem, yer don’t need to bribe me that way! If yer suddenly announced that yer never wanted to have sex again, it would be okay with me. *

 I just stared at him, incredulous. “ Jono, don’t lie.”

  Those fierce brown eyes locked into mine. *I am not lying! Yer think the only reason I’m with yer is because yer such a great lay? Yeah Rem, yer beautiful and sexy as hell, but God, that’s not the only reason! Shit, I thought I had ego problems! I LOVE YER! And yer the first person I ever felt that way about. I love yer so much it hurts! And I used to stupidly think that fucking was all there was to a relationship-but yer taught me different. There are so many things I love about yer Rem. I love yer laugh, yer smile, yer voice, that accent. I love how tough yer are, how smart. I could listen to yer talk for hours. I love the way yer walk into a room like yer own the damn place. And yer so incredibly brave. Now that I know about yer past, I love yer even more. Yer have been so very good to me. It takes a rather special person to overlook the fact that I’m missing half me face. Yer respect me, tease me, laugh at all me dumb jokes. Yer so incredibly generous, if I wanted the moon, yer would try and get it. Yer me friend, my lover, the best fucking thing that has ever happened to me! I told yer once that yer were my angel, that was the truest thing I have ever said. And I will love yer until the day I die. *

 Jono put his head on the edge of the tub; his whole body was shaking. His fury had ebbed; replaced by exhaustion. And I couldn’t say anything at all. I leaned back in the tub, my eyes closed, trying to deal with the fact that someone had uttered the words I had been waiting to hear my whole life. It took me awhile to realize that my face was wet; tears were streaming down my face. And for once, it actually felt good to cry.

 I found myself grabbing Jonothan and pulling him into the tub with me. He didn’t protest, he just wrapped his arms around me. I cried into his shoulder, and let my empathy loose. I allowed him to feel everything I was experiencing; all the gratitude, happiness, sorrow and love. I didn’t hold back at all and my power hit him full force; I smothered him with it. I felt Jono’s astonishment at this onslaught and heard a tiny mental, “ Oh, Remy…”

 To say that we were dazed by all this would be a total understatement. When I finally calmed down, Jono was sort of sprawled on top of me, head resting on my chest. I stroked his hair, rubbed the back of his neck. He looked up at me, those brown angel eyes crinkling a little. He wiped some tears from my face.

 *Yer ever notice, mate * his mental tone was rather wobbly, * that I seem to end up soaking wet with all me clothes on a lot? I suspect it has something to do with yer. *

 “Cher, it must be some kind of weird side effect. I am truly sorry.” I found myself smiling.

 * Aww, it’s all right. I’ll get used to it, and there are certainly worse things. * He sighed. * The water feels lovely, actually. So do you. Mind if I stay for a bit, get all pruney? *

 “ I couldn’t t’ink of anyone better to share bathwater with, Boo.” I cuddled him closer.

 * Not even Antonio Banderas? * I caught an eye twinkle.

 “ ‘Specially not Antonio Banderas. Now hush y’self.”

 Jono actually did hush, and we both almost fell asleep, listening to the water drip from the faucet. I had a wonderful moment of just pure peace. Then the damn water got to cold, Jono began to shiver. I yanked his clothes off, and we ended up taking a shower to get warmed up again. Afterwards, I shaved and got dressed. Jonothan also got into some dry clothing. I made him very happy by going into the kitchen to get something to eat. I actually had an appetite; Jono watched me consume every bite of soup with an extremely joyful expression. Never knew that could be so entertaining.

 When I finished eating, we took a long walk, visiting the tide pools full of Jonothan’s buddies. I was still pretty shaky, but it felt good to be outside, feeling the breeze, tasting the salt in the air. Best of all was my lover’s arm around my waist, so strong.

 We returned to the house just before sunset; Jono made me a big pot of chamomile tea. We ended up on the big, slightly ramshackle sofa in front of the picture window. I pulled Jono in my arms; he rested his head on my shoulder. It was very cute; he was fighting sleep, but he kept nodding off in the middle of a sentence. He finally succumbed just before the sun hit the horizon. I gave him a big kiss and wrapped an afghan around the both of us. Pretty soon, I was nodding off myself. I lay back into a pillow and then proceeded to have the most horrifying, wonderous dream of my entire life.

The first thing I was aware of was the cold. The air was bitter and sharp; I could see my breath coming out in soft, steamy clouds. There was also a strong, sweet smell: someone was baking. Leaves surrounded me; I was crammed behind some scuppernongs, in a tangled backyard garden. I wasn’t alone; there was a rain- worn statue of St. Francis next to me.

 Although the place seemed very familiar, it really frightened me for some reason, I didn’t want to stay. Yet I was frozen to the spot, couldn’t move. I glanced up at the back of a house, faded and blue. A scream cut through the cold. It chilled me to the bone, and I wanted to make myself as small as possible. I found myself hugging the fence, all the while staring at the house. A door started to open, and the fear I felt almost dropped me to my knees. I didn’t want to see what was coming through that door.

 I got behind a crooked old chinaberry tree. There was a loose board there, and I somehow was little and thin enough to squeeze myself through. Out on the sidewalk, I ran like hell, didn’t look back. I was scared I was going to hear another scream.

 I found myself out on Decatur Street, near the Old Farmer’s Market in N’awlins. Very familiar stompin’ grounds, although there was something wrong about it. I soon realized it was because there wasn’t a soul in sight. Things got even stranger when it began to snow. This upset me more than anything. My feet were bare and freezing on the pavement.

 I drew my coat around me, and started to walk, wanting somewhere safe to hide and get warm. The sound of music halted me, some raucous jazz was being played. I followed the sound, and saw what I first took to be a parade. Men all dressed up in their finest, instruments gleaming. Then I saw something that made me shudder-it wasn’t a parade at all, but a funeral procession. There was a big coach; the ebony horses drawing it all plumed and high-steppin’. And the coachman was someone I recognized. Baron Samedi. The Baron is the chief of all the Guedes, the Voodoo spirits that guard the gates to the world of the dead. I tried to back away from the street, duck into an ally, but the Baron’s sharp eyes spotted me. He tipped his top hat as the coach stopped right in front of me.

 “Now, petite, “ he said softly in a deep, mellow voice, “You can’t hide from Le Baron. And when you are ready, I will open the gate for you.”  He pulled something from his hat and tossed it at me. Then he clicked to the horses and started the coach moving again. I saw two coffins inside through the glass panels; they were covered with dark red roses, roses as deep as heart’s blood. I glanced down to see what the Baron had thrown to me; it was lying at my feet. It was a stuffed toy, a little tiger, button eyes staring into mine blankly. It was sticky too; I turned it over and found it was covered in blood. I threw the thing on the ground and fled.

 I headed into the Quarter; and there was still no one in sight. The snow was starting to come down even heavier now, big fat flakes. I found myself standing outside a shop, thinking hard about breaking in just to get warm. Before I could pick the lock, a voice stopped me.


 I turned to see Champagne, all tricked up in her finest drag, hugging a ratty fur close to her body. She looked pretty good, although her long blond wig was a bit askew. I was very, very, glad to see her.

 “Champagne! Where y’ at? And what’s all dis craziness goin’ on? It don’t snow in N’awlins!”

 Champagne looked worried under her pancake make up. “Remy, heart, y’ best be getting’ yo’ ass off the streets but pronto!” She shivered. “I hears that Bulldog lookin’ for y’all.” She dug around in her rhinestone bag and pulled out a key. “Y’ head over to my place baby, lay low fo’ awhile.”

 I took the key, relief flooding through me. “T’anks, cher, I owe y’ one.”

 “Just stay safe, y’ hear?” Champagne gave me a big lipstick kiss, and I saw the scared young man under all the rouge and mascara.

 “Y’ too, Cham, y’ too.” I kissed her back and started quickly for her tiny apartment, hoping to wrap myself in blankets as soon as I got there. The very thought of Bulldog made my heart skitter.

 But I couldn’t find my way to Champagne’s place no matter how hard I tried. I kept turning down dead ends and wrong streets. I opened a creaky gate, and found myself smack dab in about the last place I wanted to be: Metairie Cemetary. The place always creeped me out, and now it looked even more eerie. The big, above ground tombs were half covered by snow, and they cast long purple shadows in the fading light. I turned to back out of the gate, but it had vanished.

 Trying not to feel trapped and panicked, I wound my way through the City of the Dead, desperate for an exit. It was a grim labyrinth, and I started to mutter a prayer to Papa Legba, the loa that opens all doors. My feet felt totally numb, and I was starting to leave bloody tracks.

 A small sound, a little whimper halted me. And there, lying in a big drift, was Bone. He let out a soft, pleading bark.

 I ran right over to him, patted his knobby, ugly head. “Dumb fuck dog, what y’ doin’ here? Y’ stuck or somet’ing?” Bone’s tail thumped weakly in the snow, he licked my hand. I grabbed him, and began to pull him out of the drift. As soon as I did, Bone gave a painful cry, and to my horror, I saw that his intestines were coming out of a gaping wound in his belly in ropy loops. “Oh no, oh God, please no!” I gasped. Bone gave a little sigh and died there in my arms.

 Before I could do anything more, I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned to see Bulldog standing there, with his flat shark eyes and his gold chains. He leveled a cold grin at me.

 “What’s wrong with your doggie, boy?”  He flicked out a blood- covered switchblade. “Looks like he had himself an accident. Now why don’t y’all come over here, Bulldog make you feel all better.” He ran his tongue suggestively over the blade.

 I backed away, almost stumbling over a tomb. I managed to dodge him as he tried to grab me, kicking him in the shins. I then hurtled through a narrow path, Bulldog’s nasty laugh pursuing me. “Run all you want boy, but I’ll get your ass in the end! Count on it!”

 The tombs seemed to crowd me, getting closer and closer together. I still couldn’t see any sign of a gate. The snow was thick in the air; I was having a hard time seeing. My desperate gasps for breath were the only sound I heard, along with the faint hissing of the white flakes hitting the ground.

Then I turned one last corner and saw them all standing there, waiting. Ororo. Scott. Jean. Hank. Warren. Bobby. Logan. Rogue. My old friends. The X-Men.

 Rogue was in the center, her beautiful green eyes as frozen and hard as emeralds. “Well, sugah, looks like yah got yoself in a heap o’ trouble. Bet y’all are hopin’ that yo’ old team here will bail your butt out. But that ain’t gonna happen, no suh. As a matter of fact, you better really start runnin’. ‘Cuz I aim to finish what Ah started in Antarctica.” She delicately removed one of her gloves. “And this time Remy, y’all are gonna stay good and dead.”

 I heard a short, high whine, like a sword leaving a scabbard. Logan had unsheathed his claws. He growled deep in his throat. “ You heard the lady, Gumbo. Ya better start movin’, as I’m in the mood for some sport. Like ta gut ya like that mutt o’ yours.”

“Sorry, I get first crack at him.” Warren’s Harvard drawl contrasted oddly with the rage on his blue face. He flapped his wings in an angry display. “You can have what’s left.”

 My insides were as frozen as my feet. I looked at the only person who I thought might still care. “Stormy,” I whispered. Storm took to the air, a distant Goddess, white hair whipping in the wind. She threw a bolt of lightening at my feet. “Run, you filthy traitor. Run.”

 I didn’t need any more urging. I ran like I was being chased by the Devil himself. And each step was agony, because I knew that it was hopeless, and that I deserved all that was happening to me. But I ran anyway, until my lungs were on fire, and my legs ached. The drifts got higher and higher and the snow was almost to my waist. But I struggled on anyway, the only thing I felt I could do anymore.

 Pretty soon I realized that I wasn’t in the cemetery anymore. Through the falling white, I saw the familiar shape of St. Louis Cathedral looming over me. I staggered up to it, not really knowing why I was seeking refuge there. After all, Le Diable Blanc deserved no sanctuary.

 When I got to the doors, I found they were locked. Of course. I fumbled around in my coat for a lock pick, panic rushing through me as I heard Logan’s howl in the distance. I hit the door in frustration. “Papa Legba, open de gate!” I shouted. And to my vast surprise, it suddenly did swing open.

 I walked inside like a drunken man. The churches’ interior was even colder than the streets; everything was encased in glittering ice. It covered the pews, the walls, icicles hung from the statues, like stalactites from the ceiling. The light from the votive candles made it all sparkle diamond bright.

 I went up to the altar, sat down, staring up at a figure of an angel that took up half the nave. He was angry, wings stretched out like an attacking eagle; a flaming sword high over his head. An angel of vengeance, of retribution, sent to punish all sinners. I shivered as I looked at him and had to turn away. I focused instead on the Blessed Mother; I had always liked her, even though I didn’t have much use for the rest of the religion. She was beautiful too, her blue robe patterned with ice crystals. “I’m sorry.” I whispered to her, hoping she would understand. To my surprise, the statue smiled at me, soft brown eyes looking down with compassion.

 I didn’t have much time to contemplate this miracle; as a huge crash echoed through the church. Rogue flew through a stained glass window; the shards of glass seemed to fall on the floor in slow motion. A second later and the Cathedral doors were blown off its hinges by a crimson blast. Cyclops then strode in, followed by the rest of the X-Men and some others who had a score to settle. I saw Morlocks, Belladonna, Sabertooth, Sinister, Bulldog. All were gathering for a final reckoning.

 I was welded to the altar; I couldn’t move a muscle. I watched as Rogue walked towards me.

 “Yah disappoint me, sugah. Thought the Great Gambit would put up more of a fight. What a pussy y’all turned out to be. And to think that y’all are hiding in a church! That’s the last damn place yah should be, Cajun. Y’all are nothing but miserable gutter trash, a stinkin’, whoring little swamp rat. Yah ain’t fit to breathe; yah foul everything yah come near, shitpile. And Ah finally mean ta do somethin’ about it.”

 Rogue bent down so close I could feel her hot breath on my face, her red lips millimeters from brushing mine. If she kissed me, I would die. I swallowed, waiting for that to happen. Instead, she smiled. “Oh no, lover, it ain’t gonna be that easy.” She suddenly grabbed me by the throat, yanked me to my feet. I hung there limp and helpless, no fight in me at all.

 She pushed me against the altar, and with a hand against my chest, began to strip away my ragged clothing. I was soon naked, and the shame and cold air burned my skin. She grabbed my face, forcing me to look at the mob, all of them staring in rapt attention.

 “Now ain’t you a purty thing, Remy LeBeau.” She purred in my ear. “Be a shame to let it go to waste. Maybe before we kill yah, how ‘bout a nice, old-fashioned gangbang? Ah’d love to watch..” Horror shot through me, I tried to get out of her iron grip to no avail. “Oooh, this is gonna be fun.” Rogue drawled. “Hey, Creed-why don’t ya’ll go first?”

 “Love to!” Sabertooth stalked up to me, ran his clawed hands over my body. I squirmed and struggled, which seemed to excite him even more. Then a few more joined in, hands were everywhere. It was agony.

 “Non, stop, STOP!” I screamed.

 “Now Remy, don’t pretend that y’all don’t secretly want this. Yah beg for it, mon ami.” Rogue chuckled in my ear. “And yah deserve all that’s comin’ to yah.”

 They pulled me down to the frozen floor, forced me to lie on my stomach. Logan and Storm held my wrists; Cyclops and Archangel spread my legs. Creed’s heavy weight crushed my back. “ Hope ya scream real loud, frail. I like it when they scream.”

 “Non.” I bit my lips so hard they began to bleed.

 Rogue knelt down in front of me. “C’mon sugah, don’t be a spoilsport. I want to hear some first class beggin’. Yah owe me beggin’.”

 “Non.” I whispered.

 “Fuck the hell out of him, Creed.”

 Creed just grunted and I could feel him near my entrance. Every muscle in my body tensed, and I thrashed around for all I was worth. I found myself staring past Rogue, up at the angel. Tears stung my eyes, and the only prayer I made was the hope that I would pass out soon. My vision blurred, and without warning, the church, Rogue, and everything vanished. It was replaced by a memory I hated more than anything.

 I was still on my stomach, naked on a cold floor. I was being held down by strong hands once again. I was in an old warehouse, and a few feet away lay Bone’s corpse. I could smell the coppery blood. And on my back was Bulldog, his rotten breath panting near my face, his hands all over me. “Gonna show you who’s boss, ya little street rat. Gonna make ya my bitch now.” My blood turned to ice.

 “SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME!!!” I screamed like I had never screamed before. And then there was this sound, like a glacier crumbling and a volcano erupting all at once. The floor shook; Bulldog leapt off my back, his boys let go of my wrists. They all stared around in confusion, and began to yell when a wall literally melted. A light flooded the room, so white and hot that looking at it was pure agony. Fire and sparks shot all around, catching the empty crates and making them burst into flame. A big flume roared over Bulldog; he squealed like a pig as it singed his flesh. He began to melt just like a candle near a furnace, oozing and bubbling, the skin slipping off his bones like liquid. His torturous howls sounded thick and inhuman. Within seconds, he pooled to the floor, in a disgusting, bloody puddle.

 Bulldog’s two whores had fled, their hair and clothing on fire. I managed to get myself up, although I was too weak to get very far. I crammed myself into a corner behind some crates. I knew it was hopeless, and that the wrath of God had finally found me. I closed my eyes and awaited my fate.

 But minutes seemed to go by and nothing happened. I finally opened my eyes and saw that the white light was gone, replaced by a soft flickering blue. Footsteps approached me, and I backed into the wall, heart smacking into my ribs.

 “Yer don’t need to hide from me, love. I won’t hurt yer.” The rough, cracked voice belonged to an angel, standing at the edge of the crates. He was holding a long brown leather coat. “I’m sure yer cold, mate. Yer want this?” He smiled at me and I had never seen anyone so beautiful. His wings were made of the same sparkling light that had caused so much mayhem, but now the flames were a peaceful turquoise. The expression on his long, thin face was so kind and loving that I wasn’t afraid of him. I managed to stand, and totter towards him. I was rewarded with a huge, wondrous smile, almost too big for his narrow face, his dark eyes shining through chestnut hair. He knelt down in front of me, wrapped the coat around my shoulders. I felt very warm and safe.

 “Do I know y’?” I asked in a shaky voice.

 “I should certainly hope so. I’m yer Gothboy Angel. My job is to protect yer, keep yer safe. Although I haven’t exactly done a real bang up job.” He stroked my cheek gently. “I’m so very sorry, Remy.”

 I felt so weak that all I wanted to do is be held by him. He sensed this and pulled me into his arms. My face ended up near his neck, and I smelled leather and something vaguely sweet. It was the best place in the world, those arms, like being in Jean Luc’s lap so long ago.

 “T’anks for getting’ rid of Bulldog.” I whispered. “Dat was y’, wasn’t it?”

 “Yeah. But, Rem, yer got to listen to me now. I will help yer all I can, but I can only do so much. Yer need to stop punishing yerself, sweetheart.” His dark brown eyes were now very serious.

 “Punishing myself?”

 He slowly rocked me. “All the bad things that happened to yer just now was yer torturing yerself. This is self-hatred, love.” He whispered softly in my ear. “ Yer not responsible for being raped, Remy. It wasn’t yer fault.”

 I wanted to argue, but deep down, I knew was true. “Maybe y’ right, ange,” I sighed.  “Y’ll stay with me?”

 “Always, ducks. I’ll never abandon or desert yer. Yer stuck.” He grinned another broad, heavenly smile. And I had the overwhelming urge to kiss those gentle lips, but I didn’t dare. Le Diable Blanc had no business kissing an angel.

 But angels, apparently, can read minds. “Now, now, Rem. Don’t be afraid. C’mon and give us a kiss.” Another irresistible smile.

 In a daze, I pulled his face down to mine. Our lips pressed together, slowly, achingly sweet. My heart pounded, his mouth was so soft and tender, and it caused a burning sensation to whoosh through my body. It was a divine, loving fire, and it filled me up, all the cold, empty places inside. I knew I could kiss my angel for the rest of eternity and never tire of it.

 When we finally, reluctantly parted, the angel murmured, “Lovely.”

 I had to agree. “Oui.” He chuckled and suddenly stood, easily holding me in his arms. He spread those astonishing wings, which now seemed to glow with every color.

 “Y’ can fly?” I rested my head on a leather-clad shoulder.

 I got a huge, ragged laugh that made me smile. “ ‘Course I can fly!  I’m a fucking angel, mate!” The angel flapped his wings and we soared into the air. He trailed glowing sparks like fireflies. We flew through the hole in the wall, out into the night.

 “So, ange, where are we goin’?”

 “Does it matter, love?” he whispered.

 “Non. Not at all.” I kissed him once more, and it was just as wonderful. “I love y’, ange.”

 And with that, I woke up.

I woke up in a haze, trying to collect my raveled thoughts. I didn’t have to be much of a Jungian to figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me. And Jonothan, my angel, was right. I needed to stop endlessly tormenting myself. I maybe would be able to do it with him at my side.

 There were two things that really disturbed me, though. I love Jono the way he is, why had I dreamt of him as whole? It caused a surge of guilt. But perhaps the infinitely sweet, slightly crooked grin I had witnessed in my dreams was what I had been seeing in his eyes all along.

 Also very worrying was the dream’s beginning; hiding in that back garden, St Francis, the blue house, the Baron and his coach with the coffins, the toy tiger. Where had all that come from? The garden felt more like a memory than a subconscious desire or whim. This both frightened and elated me. Was it finally a clue to my past? And did I have the guts to let Jono in my head as he earlier offered? Did I really want to find the truth?

 I opened my eyes with a sigh, pushed some sweaty hair from my face. I was alone on the sofa; the afghan was thrown on the floor. I sat up, starting to wonder where Jono had gotten himself to. I glanced at a clock on a bookshelf; it was around five a.m.

 I suddenly noticed it was very light outside for this time of day. I walked to the window, and saw that the light seemed alive somehow, flickering and pulsing. With a weird thrill, I knew that it was indeed alive. The light that I was seeing came from Jonothan. It was so strangely close to my dream that a chill went down my spine. I walked outside to the deck, and saw him standing on the beach, ankle deep in the surf. His lower mask was off, allowing the psionic field inside him to roar out in sparkling flame-like waves. The color of the energy was white, like the core of a furnace.

 I just stared for a while; I couldn’t help it. Since we had been together, I have seen Jono with his bandages off a total of twice. As much as I reassured him that it didn’t bother me, it really upset him, so I let him be. I knew Jonothan was still trying to deal with feeling like some kind of monster. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. I thought him strangely beautiful, that light like something from the distant nebulas.

 I wondered for a moment if I should just leave him alone, but something in his posture worried me. I opened my shields to see what was going on with Mr. Starsmore.

 I almost dropped to my knees, the emotions were so strong. Most of it was rage, dark and boiling. I was almost like what I had picked up from him that night we first met on that bridge. I had no idea what could have triggered such profound anger, anger he obviously needed to vent.

 I just watched him for a few minutes, my hands gripping the rail of the deck tightly. And then anger switched off like a light, replaced by this terrible sadness and pain. Jonothan dropped to the sand, slowly pulling the mask over his face. I immediately ran out to him, kneeling down beside him. He was very startled to see me, and tried to hide the tears. I grabbed him and yanked him into my arms.

 “What’s wrong, baby?”  Jono didn’t answer; he just clung to me, sobbing. I held him tight, soothing him with my empathy as much as I could. It seemed to help; his hysterics soon faded. I brushed the wild hair from his face, wiped his eyes.

 “Talk to me, Boo. What’s goin’ on? What was the big tantrum for?”

 Jono sighed. *Shit. Empaths. * Another deep sigh. * I had this terrible nightmare, Rem, about yer. Yer were in this cemetery, and it was snowing, and the fucking X-Men were hunting yer like yer were some kind of animal. They chased yer into this church, where that bitch Rogue tore off yer clothes, and then, they…they…God. * A fresh wave of tears started down his face. I was stunned speechless for a moment.

 Jono clenched his fists. * I could feel how helpless yer were, and how afraid. And I hated all of them; I wanted to tear them all to pieces, especially that smug bitch and that Bulldog. * The rage burned in the air again; Chamber’s whole body shook. * I’d like to find every slimy, foul dirt wad bastard that ever hurt yer and melt the skin right off their bodies! But I can’t do anything Remy; I’m just no fucking good, am I?! AM I?! *

 Jonothan began to pound the sand, in the throes of another fury. I stopped him, holding his arms tight. “JONO! Listen to me! Y’ de best damn t’ing dat has ever happened to me, and y’ helped me more den anybody. ANYBODY! Because of y’, Jono I know dat I can get through dis. I love, y’ Jonothan Starsmore! And I don’t need no revenge. All I need is y’ with me, and I know I’ll be okay.” I kissed his tear-streaked face all over, held him close. I tried as hard as I could with my empathy to let him know how much I felt for him, which was almost more than my heart could stand.

 We ended up lying together in each other’s arms. I rubbed Jono’s back for a while, and decided to drop the bomb on him. “Cher-dere’s somet’ing I gotta tell y’. Dat nightmare y’ had? I had de exact same dream.”

 Jonothan started. “ My god-yer kidding! I must have-. *

 “Picked it up from me.”

 Jono looked very upset, and I tried to sooth him. “ Jono, it wasn’t y’ fault. I probably was really broadcasting strong, y’ telepathy couldn’t help but pick it up.” I had to ask. “Do y’ remember a part with a garden?”

 * Yeah. * Jono answered slowly. * Yer were hiding in some bushes. Then someone screamed from the house. Then there was this part with this bloke with a top hat, driving a coach with coffins in it…*

 “Dat was de Baron Samedi, a Voodoo loa in charge of de gates between de living world and de dead. De Baron said he would open de gate when I was ready. I’m t’inkin’ dat some of de dream was actual memories, clues to my past.”

 * Really? Yer want me to…? * Jonothan began cautiously.

 “Non. I might just see if I start to remember on my own, cher. If I need y’ help, I’ll be sure to ask. Maybe goin’ home to N’awlins will trigger somet’in’ too. Y’ don’t mind if we leave soon? I know it’s earlier den we planned, but I need to finally talk to Poppa and Tante about dis.”

 He took my hand. * It’s okay with me, love. Just promise we can come back here someday. * His ‘voice’ was wistful.

 “ Dat’s a definite promise.” I caressed the side of his face. “ Cher, do y’ remember de part of de dream where y’ saved me?”

 *Saved yer? Me?  No, the last thing I saw was Bulldog about to, uh…then I woke up. *

 “Well, y’ did save me. Y’ were an angel too, took care of Bulldog, held me in y’ arms. Dat part of de dream was wonderful.” I had to laugh. “ Y’ were ‘bout de swearingest ange ever, though. I asked y’ if y’ could fly, and y’ said, “ ‘Course I can fly! I’m a fucking angel, aren’t I?”

 Jonthan cracked up, and I loved hearing his mental laugh roar through my head. Then he sat up, giving me this odd look. *Rem…do yer recall Synch from Gen X? His mutant power is the ability to mimic other mutant’s talents. He was able to ‘synch’ up with me a number of times, and luckily didn’t have the misfortune of blowing his face off. Anyway, Ev’s a great bloke, but he used to drive me fucking nuts, ‘cuz he could use me powers better than I could.  And he could do one thing that just astonished me. Yer might have noticed that I have been going off by meself for a while. *

 “I t’ought y’ were practicing y’ martial arts moves.”

 Jono’s eyes crinkled. * Yer know that’s a bloody waste of time. But I have been working with me powers. Had a big breakthrough right after the whole Manta ray thing. I’ve been dying to tell yer, but I was waiting for the perfect moment. And I think, uh, this is it. *

 I was burning with curiosity now. “Okay, y’ officially killin’ me! Quit stallin’ and show me!”

 *Err, okay. * Jonothan stood up and nervously pulled down his face mask. The psionic energy poured down his chest and over his shoulders in lazy blue tendrils. *God…I hope I don’t fall on me arse …* I heard him faintly mutter. He closed his eyes, tilted his head back, and stretched out his arms a little. I was rigid with anticipation, wondering what this was all about.

 A second later, I found out. Jonothan Starsmore flew.

 The psionic energy gave a push downward, and he very slowly rose in the air. I got to my feet, mouth surely hanging open. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was so close to my dream that my heart gave a jolt. And from Jono, I got a feeling of such happiness and pride.

 *So what d’yer think, Rem? I’m Peter fucking Pan! *

 I recovered my voice. “Actually cher, I t’ink y’ look more like Tinkerbelle.”

 He laughed hugely. *Screw yer, LeBeau! *  He did a mid air figure eight.

 I put my hands on my hips. “Ain’t y’ somet’ing, baby!” And he was.

 *I am rather spectacular, aren’t I? * He did a graceful aerial somersault, showing off a little. He slowly returned to the ground, doing quite well until the last second. He somehow tripped and went ass over teakettle in the sand. I couldn’t help it, I just busted up. Then I went to help him.

 “Jono, I’m probably pointing out de obvious, but y’ might want to work on y’ landings a bit.”

 *Well, no shit. * Chamber said good naturedly, brushing some sand out of his hair. I was pleased to see that he didn’t pull his mask back up to cover his face. He touched my arm. *It’s because of you, love, that I can do this. I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was little, and now I can. * There was such love in his eyes.  *So... * he said after a moment, *want to go for a ride? *

 This surprised me. “Y’ sure y’ up to dat, honey?” I didn’t want to admit it, but his energy field made me a little nervous, although I knew Jono wouldn’t have offered if it would harm me.

 * I think so. * He seemed to guess my thoughts. *The field won’t burn yer, love. I’ve gotten a lot of control over it. See? * And I was suddenly engulfed in a flood of blue energy. There was warmth but it didn’t hurt at all. It felt like I was being caressed all over.

 I grinned at him. “Den what are we waiting for? Let’s get dis show on de road, baby!”

 Jonothan chuckled and had me get behind him, winding my arms tightly around his waist.  His body trembled for a moment, then we both rose into the air. I found myself laughing, and thinking that I was indeed with a real angel in more ways than one.

 “So where to, Tinkerbelle?” I couldn’t resist.

 *Call me that one more time, and I’ll drop yer in the bloody ocean.” His tone was full of amusement.

 I squeezed his waist tighter. “ How ‘bout we find a cruise ship and buzz de tourists?”

 *Yer really a caution, yer know that? *  I got the impression of a mental smile. * I love yer, Rem. *

 I sighed. “J’taime, mon petite ange. J’taime.”

 And we flew over the ocean as the sun rose in the sky.


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